Passenger Experience

Lanterns shed new light at Xi’an Xianyang?


Although I have not yet been there, I am sure that Xi’an Xianyang International Airport is a very pleasant place in which to spend the requisite pre-flight wait period. I am also certain that the various features, and specifically the 8 new historically inspired lanterns which have been crafted to give the airport a “sense of place” are an architectural success (The essence of Xi’an embodied in an extraordinary shopping experience). What I am less sure about, however, is the claim that the creation of “sense of place”, through the installation of said Lanterns, will generate increased passenger spend.
The notion that passengers value “sense of place” has almost the quality of a Chinese whisper in airport industry circles. It could be that investing “quite significant” amounts of money to create a sense of place comes more from a position of adopting the status quo, rather than from any hard evidence based on “following analysis of customer behavior”.
In the last 18 months I have spent hours interviewing passengers at Brisbane International Airport. Based on this data, I can report that, to date, not one of my interview subjects has initiated references related to “sense of place”, or indeed any architectural features. Passengers speak of their experience almost exclusively in terms related to strategies to tame an unfamiliar environment, over which they have little control.
It is possible that a significant investment in lanterns will lure the passenger to spend more while at Xi’an Xianyang International Airport … I would bet, however, that a better result would be achieved from investments targeted at reducing uncertainty, rather than creating a “sense of place”.
Reference: The essence of Xi’an embodied in an extraordinary shopping experience, Future Travel Experience post, 31 January 2013


3 thoughts on “Lanterns shed new light at Xi’an Xianyang?

  1. Dan Wong says:

    I agree that the creation of a “sense of place’ may not, nor should it relate to the propensity of the air traveler to spend more money at an airport. However, as a seasoned airport professional and having been to my fair share of airports, I believe that airports around the globe have, like hotel rooms, become too generic architectually whereby they all start to look alike with all of the same type of retail stores and restaurants. As a result, you start having to look at your airline ticket to figure out what airport you are in.

    I believe there is a need for creating unique airport terminal buildings that reflect the nature and character of the locale surrounding the airport. It would certainly alieviate the monotony of air travel going through countless terminals and concourses, and would provide passengers with well needed momentary diversions whereby one could absorb a bit of the local culture prior to either boarding another plane or leaving the terminal for one’s final destination. In any event, the sense of place should not be based or focused upon the desire to acquire more money from the air traveler…but giving the air traveler a pleasant experience in which they may be able to actually enjoy rather than dread the experience of modern air travel.

    • Yes, I completely agree with your thoughts Dan. The irony is, that in their attempt to “create a sense of place”, airports are racing to become increasingly THE SAME. The photo in the referenced article highlights a shopping area, anchored by the Swiss brand BALLY … not entirely an authentic Chinese experience, is it?

  2. Pingback: Optimising the Terminal Footprint | inplaneterms

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